Texas Girl Grit, страница 1часть #2 серии Texas Series
TEXAS GIRL GRIT
By Shelley L. Stringer
Texas Girl Grit
Published 2017 by Shelley L. Stringer
This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review. The story contained within is a work of fiction.
Names, characters, corporations, institutions, organizations, events, or locals in this novel are either a product of the author’s imagination, or, if real, used fictitiously. The resemblance of any character to actual persons (living or dead) is entirely coincidental.
This story contains explicit sexual scenes and adult situations and language and is only for readers over the age of 18.
Also by Shelley L. Stringer
The Southern Series
SOUTHERN COMFORT – CHANDLER’S STORY
The Texas Series
Table of Contents
About The Author
I circled the great room of our beachfront suite in wonder. I was numb. The feel of soft, sheer drapes billowing against my skin reminded me this was no dream. If it was, I never wanted to wake up. Stopping at the French doors to gaze out at the Gulf of Mexico, the salty smell of the ocean and the waves lapping hungrily at the beach drew me out to the deck.
For the hundredth time that day, I wondered why, out of all the beautiful women in Texas, he chose me. No amount of therapy, expensive clothes, loving praise, or time would heal the small, broken part of my soul constantly feeding my self-doubt. I’d come a long way from the tough, independent introvert sleeping on wooden pallets on the floor of a loft in downtown Austin. Kelly Catherine Covington--it did have a certain ring to it. I wondered how long it would take for me to get used to writing it or to stop calling myself “Sanger” in my head.
Liam’s hands sliding around my waist brought me out of my musings.
“How’s this for a view?” His warm breath on my neck caused me to shiver.
“Amazing. How long do we get to stay?”
“One perfectly blissful week.”
His hands moved down my tummy, finding their way to the hem of my top and then sliding under. I turned in his arms and wound my arms around his neck, tangling my hands in his silky hair. With a fierceness which still startled me after all this time, he took my lips with his, flicking his tongue hungrily into my mouth, claiming me and my body as his, as if I wasn’t already. After almost bringing me to my knees with his kiss, he pulled away and cupped my face in his hands.
I sighed. Our time would pass way too swiftly for me, and I hoped it would seem that way to Liam too.
“Knock-knock, is everyone decent?” Liam’s mother, Ellen Covington, called out as she pushed open the door to our suite. “This one is restless and I thought I’d bring him over to you for a quick visit before everyone has to get ready.”
If there was a way for my world to look brighter, the entrance of our Masen was it. A joyous bundle of eight-month-old, chubby-cheeks and baby slobber, Masen gurgled and squealed as Ellen handed him to me. Liam was at my side instantly, taking him from me and tossing him into the air. Masen squealed louder as Liam caught him and then cradled him to his chest and kissed his head.
“If there is a downside to this week, being separated from you for more than a few hours is it, buddy,” he murmured. Ellen clicked her tongue in a soothing fashion as she brushed my arm and then took my hand in hers.
“We are going to take good care of him. We have all kinds of things planned for him and Sammy to do together. You two need to enjoy your honeymoon. You’ll need this down time to regroup,” she cautioned.
My pulse quickened. Just the thought of Liam’s appointment to fill the senate seat vacancy left when Senator Williams died made me nervous. Even though he was barely old enough to legally hold the office, Liam was a natural and well-suited for Texas politics. I wasn’t nervous for him. It was my role as a politician’s wife that worried me. And I would be the youngest spouse, even though I was about to turn twenty-three. Sensing my unease, Liam snaked his arm around my waist and gripped my hip in a silent show of support.
“Play with him and wear him down. A nap while we get the bride ready would be helpful,” Ellen suggested as I smiled up at Masen. He slapped his chubby hands against Liam’s cheeks, trying to make him blow raspberries, a favorite pastime for the two of them. My heart clenched, watching the tiny dimple form in Masen’s cheek as he grinned in anticipation of Liam’s response. He looked so much like my sister Dana. I hoped he would resemble his mother as he grew up, a constant physical reminder of the sister I’d lost way too soon. I looked back to Liam and my heart melted. Fatherhood looked good on him, and he’d taken to parenting Masen as he had taken to Texas politics. It was something in his blood.
“And now Tana, Chelsea and I have a small surprise for the bride. If you will take Masen next door to play with Sammy and G-paw, we’ll get started in here. No more coming in before the ceremony,” she cautioned as she moved to kiss his cheek.
“No seeing the bride before the wedding…Isn’t it a bit old-fashioned?” he asked, moving Masen to his shoulder.
“Young man, you’ve taken away my chance to do the big church wedding and all the preliminaries with this eloping to the beach thing. Give me this--I’m taking over from here!” she admonished, her eyes flashing. I knew she wasn’t kidding, but a giggle escaped me anyway.
“Momma, bringing the wedding party with you is not eloping. Eloping would have been calling you after the fact,” he retorted.
Ellen’s eyebrow rose in a challenge, then she turned to me and winked, the most beautiful sparkle in her eye. Most of the time, Ellen Covington was down-to earth, but her South-Texas, old-money breeding shined as she took her “mother of the groom” role seriously.
I moved to kiss Masen on his chubby cheeks and then rose on my tip-toes to kiss Liam goodbye.
“See you in a couple of hours, Hellcat,” he murmured against my lips. “The next time I introduce you to someone, I get to call you ‘wife.’”
My stomach fluttered. I loved the sound of it, but I was also afraid he wouldn’t be as proud in a year when he started his first Senate race. I was his Achilles heel, and he knew it.
* * *
One look at the large bag draped over Tana’s arm and I guessed what the surpr
“What did you three do? We talked about this,” I argued as Tana laughed.
Liam’s sister-in-law, Chelsea, moved toward me and took my hands in hers.
“I know you picked a simple white dress, but Jen found this in a couture line her boutique carries and showed it to us. It’s perfect for you. The four of us agreed you had to have it. You may be getting married on the beach with family, but every girl needs a fairy-tale dress,” she said, tucking a strand of hair behind my ear.
Tana unzipped the bag slowly and then shook the dress free and fluffed it across the bed.
“Oh, gosh,” I gasped out. Turning to Ellen, I shook my head. “You shouldn’t have spent this much money on me, it must have cost a fortune!”
“Oh, it did, but I didn’t buy it. Liam did,” she corrected me with a smile. “The minute he saw it, he told Jen to order it.”
Tana spoke up. “His exact words were, ‘She has to marry me in this.’”
I moved to the bed and ran my fingertips over the crystals on the bodice. Made of snow-white satin, the strapless bodice was fashioned of a sweet-heart neckline, tapering to a ridiculously narrow waist. The fabric was swept to the side and pinned with more crystals, resembling an antique broach.
“So beautiful,” I breathed. “I’m almost afraid to wear it.”
“But you will wear it, and Liam will be dazzled,” Chelsea said. “Now, let’s get you ready.”
After an hour of tedious makeup and hair and a layer of sinfully expensive and provocative lingerie, I stepped into the dress and pulled it up to my chest.
“Absolute perfection,” Ellen breathed. “Kelly, I know you are wishing right now your mother was here.”
A lump formed in my throat, and I shook my head. “No, if she were alive, she’d probably be high or drunk. We never shared mother-daughter moments. Aunt Deb…”
“Sweetheart?” she questioned, adjusting the skirt on my dress and then standing to study me.
“I miss Aunt Deb. She should have been my mother. She’s the one who would be here with me right now. Aunt Deb and Dana,” I whispered, longing to see them. Feelings I’d been trying to avoid by having the big church wedding came bubbling to the surface.
Ellen’s eyes filled with tears as she drew a breath and smiled. “I will tell you what your Aunt Deb would surely say--you are the most beautiful bride I can imagine and I’m so proud of you. And I will tell you my son adores you. He looks at you like his father looked at me thirty-five years ago. So, my dear, that makes you ours too. Welcome to our family.”
I pulled her to me and hugged her tightly. Pulling away, she cupped my cheek in her hand.
“We love you, Kelly. You do have sisters, now. Although, Allison…you might want to give her back,” Chelsea added. Liam’s baby sister was absent, as usual, more than likely hanging by the pool instead of getting ready for the wedding.
I turned to gaze into the mirror. The girl staring back at me was a girl who could marry a movie star…or a Texas Senator. My nerves launched into overdrive, thinking what all this could mean for Liam and his family. Sensing my unease, Tana grabbed my hand and diverted my attention.
“Kelly-cat, I took my role today very, very seriously. Since I’m giving the bride away, I felt it my duty to grill Covington on the duties of a proper husband for my best friend. I threatened to cut his balls off and toss them in the nut bucket at the next barbeque if he messes this up,” she said in her gravelly, Texas drawl.
Liam’s mother gasped, Chelsea giggled, then they both pulled us forward to make our way to the beach.
I dragged my toes nervously back and forth in the sand, smoothing my skirt and chanting to myself to remain calm. Tana grinned at me and threaded her arm through mine.
“Chill, Cat. It’s just you, Liam, and the people who love you. It will all be over in a matter of minutes, and then we can down all the fine booze Davis paid for,” she joked, elbowing me.
I peered down the aisle, taking in the beautiful urns full of lacy, white flowers flanking the pews and lining the front arch. An arch was an understatement. It was an explosion of blooms around a white podium where the minister now stood. I shook my head in disbelief. I’d given Liam’s mother free reign over the details of the seating and the beach venue. I never dreamed she could do as much or spend lavishly on a beach. She’d even hauled in church pews and plopped them down on the beach. I could only wonder at how much that bill would be.
As two young boys lit the torches lining the aisle, the three violinists began to play, signaling my walk to the front. Tana kissed my cheek and murmured, “I’m not giving you away, Kel. You’re my best friend forever.”
I glared at her as she smirked back at me. She was trying to make me cry. It wasn’t going to happen. Not today.
The entire setting glowed with the torches reflecting in the water, seeming to light the sand under foot. As we started down the path to the water’s edge, Liam stepped into view. His mother had insisted on his wearing a tux, but I noticed he’d balked at the shoes, as had I, and his feet were bare. They were the sexiest things I’d ever seen.
“Even his damn feet are gorgeous,” Tana whispered. I laughed nervously, covering my mouth with my bouquet. “And I’ve totally turned into a horny hound-dog,” she continued, causing me to choke on my giggle. “As soon as this thing’s done, you are introducing me!”
She referred to the gorgeous friend of Liam’s who’d showed up at the resort at the last minute. At first glance, I’d almost reconsidered my haste in marrying Liam, and checked out the competition. Almost. Sean Reynolds, former longhorn teammate and current Texans quarterback, stood on the aisle in the second pew, silently supporting Liam on our big day. I was sure Liam would’ve asked him to be a part of the wedding party if we’d had one. Tana, in her role of ‘giving the bride away,’ was our only member.
I’d only spoken to Sean briefly when Liam had introduced us in the lobby, but I liked him immediately. When we met, his eyes sparkled as he embraced me warmly, and he told me he was happy Liam had finally found “the girl.”
I found myself at the makeshift altar, all flickering candles and cascades of Texas wildflowers and sunflowers. The warm glow of color consisting of a mixture of deep oranges, reds, blues and yellows was stunning. But the most stunning view of all was my husband. He seemed mesmerized, watching me move toward him. I took a deep breath and memorized his demeanor. Naturally tanned by the sun, he glowed and his blue eyes appeared deeper in the candlelight, rivaling the blues in the Texas wildflowers. The crinkles around his eyes made his smile appear even more handsome, if that were possible. Strong jawline, athletic build…and I was wondering what I’d done to deserve such a beautiful man. No, he wasn’t beautiful because of what was on the outside, all alpha-male, muscular and athletic, but what was inside. I’d never met a more patriotic, civic-minded, or noble person than the man I was marrying. He’d been the typical rich bad-boy in his college football days. But now, he honestly felt it was his civic duty to serve, and he loved his family, people, and politics.
And I loved him.
As we repeated our vows, promising to love each other with all our being, support each other’s life goals and dreams, and hold the others happiness as our priority as we began our family, it finally sunk in. I was no longer alone in the world. There were finally no walls and no barriers. There was just love.
Liam pulled me in and kissed me, my feet leaving the ground as he held me tightly against him. His family was up and surrounding us as the minister proclaimed us, “Mr. and Mrs. Liam Whelan Covington.”
“You’re finally mine,” Liam breathed, his breath brushing a strand of hair tumbling from my up-do.
“Covington, I’ve been yours since you walked into my office,” I whispered back.
“Da!” Masen squealed, holding his hands out to Liam, straining against Davis’s grasp. Liam’s father seemed to adore Masen as much as he did his biological granddaughter, Sammy, Chelsea
Liam took Masen into his arms, kissing him on the head. “Hey, buddy, now it’s official. Mommy and Daddy are finally married!”
“Ma’am” Masen gurgled, jumping in his arms excitedly.
“Isn’t mommy beautiful,” he said, his lips in Masen’s ear. But he’d already lost Masen’s attention, as our little boy twisted in his arms to see the waves foaming on the beach at the water’s edge.
“Yeah, yeah…Mommy’s beautiful, Daddy’s gaga over her, and all that…Where’s the champagne?” Tana shouted.
“Hey, Coving-stud, way to go,” Sean said as he hugged Liam with the “one-arm, slap him in the shoulder with the other” guy hug.
“Coving-stud?” I asked with an eyebrow raised.
“Yup. That’s his nickname around the locker room,” Sean explained. Liam rolled his eyes.
“Oh, I should have thought of that myself,” Tana drawled, already drunk on Sean without any alcohol to help her along.
“Tana, have you met my man Sean?” Liam asked, playfully slapping him on the back.
“I have now.” She took Sean by the arm and led him toward the tables piled with reception food. Liam chuckled as I turned back to him.
“Is she still with Tom?” he asked as he took my hand.
“No, I don’t think so. Not this week, anyway,” I said in all seriousness. Tana and her boyfriend/friend/Friday night date had broken up and made up more than the Texas weather changes. Tom was sweet, and he’d been a fixture in our lives since freshman year at UT. But you could tell from day one he wasn’t her “happily ever after.”
Liam led me to the water’s edge and then knelt and dipped Masen’s feet in the waves. Masen giggled and splashed, struggling to get out of Liam’s arms.
“Not tonight, little guy. Maybe tomorrow we’ll take a dip,” he said, swinging back up and onto his shoulder.